“Now What” is the title of the final chapter in Sharon Begley’s outstanding book, “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves.” The answer to this question is that the future has arrived and that we are the beneficiaries of a revolution in the understanding of the brain and human potential.
There are three key discoveries. One is that neurons are created until we die.
The second is neuroplasticity that the brain can rewire itself.
The third is that we can effect these changes with how with think, that is, with our minds. Hence the title, “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.
Sometimes there are problems in the brain, and these can be corrected by the way we think and exercises that can effectively make corrections to our neuroplastici brains. But we can also build upon and improve our minds. The future is virtually limitless.
Begley reviews some of the exciting research of Merzenich, which shall not be reviewed here as there shall be many future posts about the work of Merzenich.
A critical topic is that of secular ethics, a term Healthymemor believes was coined by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai lama does not proselytize for Buddhism. Rather he argues for a new basis for a modern ethics, one that appeals to the billions of people who adhere to different religions or to no religion, one that supports basic values such as personal responsibility, altruism, and compassion.
The problem is that a scientific literate person or anyone who gives a cursory glance at newspaper science stories may well react to that a message with some skepticism. Modern science seems to be offering a radically different view of human responsibility. Critics call this view neurogenetic determinism, the belief, ascendant from the early 1990s and propelled by the mystique of modern genetics, that ascribes causal power to the genres one inherent from one’s parents. Should a reader still adhere to this view they are urged to read or reread all the posts devoted to Begleys book. Genes are affected by the environment and, what is important, are epigenetic, which refers to what is read out from genes. The environment has strong effects as do meditative practices. There is a related wrong view and that is strict determinism. We are victims to neither our genes nor to our environments. Our minds, how we think about the world along with meditative practices, can and do effect changes.
Healthy memory shall conclude this post with the Begley’s final paragraph. “The conscious act of thinking about one’s thoughts in a different way changes the very brain circuits that do that thinking, as studies show how psychotherapy changes the minds of people with depression show. Such willfully induced brain changes require focus, training, and effort, but a growing number of studies show how real those changes are. They come from within. As discoveries of neuroplasticity, and this self-directed neuroplasticity, trickle down to clinics and schools and plain old living rooms, the ability to willfully change the brain will become a central part of our lives—and our understanding what it means to be human.”